Thursday, September 08, 2011

Jumper Cables for the Mind: Dealing with Writer's Block

The following is from author Terri Main's blog, Education Wants to be Free. Her book, Dark Side of the Moon is available now on Barnes & Noble.

Okay, most of us face writers block at one time or another. We sit staring at the computer screen, our fingers hovering over the keys, but seemingly suspended in space wondering what to write. Here are a few ways to beat the block:

Writing Prompts

Keep a collection of writing prompts handy. Sometimes all you have to do is get writing about anything to break the creative logjam. Keep a bunch of silly ones around as well. Sometimes writing about what kind of monster you would be if you could be a monster or what you would do with the gift of invisibility will be enough to get those creative juices flowing. For a bunch of writing prompts go to

Word Association

Sometimes, if I'm slow to start, I'll play the word association game. The way it works is that I will type a key word relevant to the topic of the article or scene in a story. Then I write down the first word that comes to mind after seeing that word. Then I write down a word suggested by the second word and so on until I shake those creative thoughts loose.

The Dramatic Quote

Simply write down the most dramatic quote you found in your research. Use this quote as your lead and ask, "What comes next?" Even if you don't use the quote as your lead in the final draft, it can get you writing.

Understand the Block

Resistance always has meaning. One way to approach a writer's block is to find the meaning behind it. Open a new file in your word processor or take out a notebook and begin to "interview" yourself. Ask, "What am I afraid will happen if I write something?"

Very often, our fears keep us from being truly creative. We have those voices of others who laughed at our dreams of writing, belittled it, or patronized us when we brought it up. Maybe we believe that what we write down will be "wrong." Maybe we are afraid of the responsibility of people reading our words and taking action because of them. Once you understand what those fears are, then ask yourself, "Are these fears real and, if real, are they significant?"

Write about the Block

Just begin to write about being blocked. You can simply stay "in the now" and write, "Okay, I'm sitting at the keyboard. I don't have anything to say. I've got writers block. I wonder why they call it a block. Is it wooden and square with a letter on the side of it? I liked playing with blocks as a kid..."


The more you think about the block the more blocked you will become. Therefore, one good way to beat the block is to do something entirely different from writing. Physical exercise or doing mundane chores are good diversions. Work out, take a walk, mow the lawn, do the dishes, or vacuum the floor. Don't think about the paper or writing at all. That way you can come back to the writing with a fresh perspective.


Sometimes the best way to overcome writer's block is to simply lie down on a couch and clear your mind. One good way to do this is to imagine in your mind a peaceful scene. It could be an ocean shore, a meadow, a woods or mountaintop. It doesn't matter as long as it is peaceful to you. Soft music can help as well as relaxation tapes.

Switch Writing Instruments

Each of us composes our manuscripts in different ways. Some writers like to write out the paper long hand and then transcribe them on the computer. Others, like myself, compose at the keyboard. If you compose with pencil and paper, try using the computer. If you compose at a keyboard, try writing long hand. Sometimes switching writing instruments will be enough to shake loose those creative cobwebs. Sometimes, I'll switch between typing on the keyboard to using voice recognition software. Hearing the sound of my voice can be enough to give me a fresh perspective on what I'm writing.

Debby A.

Education Wants to be Free Blog (Terri Main) / CC BY-ND 3.0

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